sunscreen causing sunscream?


If you’re Aussie, you probably know the slip! slop! slap! mantra, and elsewhere in the world, sunscreen is not a new phenomenon. Rain or shine, sun safety is a wonderful thing and I am preparing to abide by it even more strictly as summer fast approaches.

Most foundations and moisturisers nowadays have inbuilt sun protection. Usually, this is a token SPF 15 – pointless! I have even seen SPF 9. We have a hole in the ozone above us here in Australia – SPF 15 ain’t going to cut it. So, if you’re like me, you apply additional sunscreen around the SPF 30 mark before getting the war paint on.

If you’re finding your skin gets shiny by 11am or you keep breaking out, you may have assumed that your foundation is to blame. It might be. But as I found out, the culprit was my sunscreen.

Here are a few things you might want to keep in mind about sunscreen when it comes to makeup.

Suncreen/SPF can cause flashback. No, not that irresistible urge to do the worm to C+C Music Factory. I’m talking about the ghost-like effect your face takes on under flash photography. One minute your mug is flawless in natural light, then as soon as you’re papped, you look like you’ve been living in a nightclub for the last 3 years. The ingredients to blame here are titanium oxide and zinc oxide which reflect light (which is why they are used in sunscreen).

Mica and shimmer in your makeup products can also contribute to flashback so be on the lookout for these in the ingredients list.

Tip: if you’re going to be subjected to flash photography, particularly at night time, avoid sunscreen or makeup containing SPF. Of course don’t sacrifice sun safety for a selfie!

Sunscreen turns you into a disco-ball
Sunscreen can cause breakouts. By this I don’t mean ALL sunscreens do. But consider this: if you slather on a good moisturiser, use a dewy finish primer, your foundation is moisturising AND you use a sunscreen that isn’t oil-free, it might just be a bit too much for your skin. Over-moisturising is just as bad as under-moisturising.

Just because you have dry skin doesn’t mean all the products you apply should be super hydrating.
Also, sometimes using multitasking products is not the way to go. We are inundated with choices for tinted, hydrating, waterproof sunscreens; anti-ageing foundation laden with SPF, fragrance and acne-fighting properties; luminizing, photo-finish primers; rich moisturisers with sunscreen and brightening and tightening ingredients. No wonder your skin can’t breathe!

I prefer a simple moisturiser and a separate, pure SPF so neither product is trying to compete with the other. The KISS principle never gets old.

Tip: try an oil-free sunscreen. Better yet, find one that is fragrance free and untinted.
Bioré UV Perfect Milk, La Roche-Posay Anthelios, Neutrogena UltraSheer and the Cancer Council are just some of the choices available. Bonus: some of these offer very high sun protection.

Some sunscreen can cause skin rashes. I learned this the hard way. Sunscreens essentially work either by:

  • creating a barrier and reflecting light, including harmful UV rays (physical sunscreens)
  • absorbing or scattering the sun’s rays (chemical sunscreens)
  • a combination of the above two

You can read more about sunscreen types here.

Chemical sunscreens can be problematic for some people who are sensitive to the ingredients and can break out in rashes or suffer an allergic reaction. This type of sunscreen can also cause stinging if it gets into your eyes.
My first few summers in Australia, I suffered small painful, itchy rashes followed by scabbing and de-pigmentation and I had no idea why. Even my dermatologist couldn’t figure it out.
Turned out the sunscreens I was using were causing an allergic reaction. Switching to a zinc oxide based sunscreen solved those issues for me. Plus, I don’t get that tacky, sticky feeling with the ‘milky’ type sunscreen (which also tend to be non-ghosting).

Tip: everyone is different so this is not an easy fix. What you can do is patch test different formulas and see what works best for you. Zinc oxide is usually safe even for delicate skin.

These are my main sunscreen issues. You may have the same, or others, or more. I’m not suggesting you ditch the sunblock. Rather, that you should take a closer look at your sunscreen if you’re experiencing the problems above and aren’t sure why.
We are lucky in that skincare has advanced enough to afford us a plethora of choice when it comes to sun safety. So it is possible to look good, have healthy skin and protect yourself against premature ageing and skin cancer. Just be smart about it.

Do you have any sun safety problems or tips to share? I’d love to hear from you!

sunscreen causing sunscream?

5 thoughts on “sunscreen causing sunscream?

  1. I don’t put sunscreen on my face because I get breakouts from them and shiny skin, even oil free ones aren’t that great. For me the main culprits are bb creams that contain sunscreens they drive me insane, I think they just want to do too much, what they really are is a tinted moisturiser with an SPF. Some call themselves 8 in 1 products but struggle to just do one thing well. But I also just avoid the sun now or wear a hat because I’m very fair skinned.


    1. Thanks for dropping by the blog rokitshopit.
      I agree with you re: BB creams being glorified tinted moisturisers. Genuine BB creams are difficult to find in mainstream stores and are certainly scarce in Australia.

      Not all oil-free sunscreens are equal – I reckon the Japanese have got a great formula going when it comes to sunscreens that are non-ghosting, non-greasy and non-disappointing. I had all but given up but Biore UV Perfect UV Face Milk came into my life and fixed all that – it is the bomb diggity. Such a light, non-sticky and simple, 1 function product.

      I hope you find a good sunscreen because avoiding the sun is no way to enjoy life 🙂


  2. A lot of sunscreens break me out! And I still haven’t singled out what ingredient causes it. Good thing I found a few that don’t and coincidentally, all of them are japanese brands. Lucky I don’t have an issue with silicone.

    I just recently found out that the sun-something index is higher in australia. A friend’ sister went back home with sunspots because she didn’t wear sunscreen while she was there. And she’s even darker than me.


    1. Rae, you’re probably referring to the UV Index which measures how strong ultra violet radiation (UVR) from the sun is at a particular time. The ozone above Australia is very thin so we experience a lot more UVR unfortunately. You can feel the bite in the sun here.
      I’m tan and I never wore sunscreen growing up in Africa. But I’m a lot more sensible about it now that I live in Australia. We have a fairly outdoorsy lifestyle so we can’t be taking any chances 🙂
      Sad that your friend’s sister learned the hard way!

      On a side note, I think waterproof sunscreens are more likely to break you out than the non-waterproof variety.


      1. I’m not sure if the UV index is low in the Philippines, but I think, not a lot of people wear sunscreen everyday. I’ve only met one non-blogger person who wears sunscreen and I also don’t hear a lot about skin cancer here…


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